More Than 300 American Optometric Association Volunteers Converge on Capitol Hill

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WASHINGTON, D.C.—More than 300 American Optometric Association (AOA) doctor and student volunteers recently converged on Capitol Hill for optometry’s largest gathering of advocacy leaders, AOA's 2014 Congressional Advocacy Conference. Participating in briefings and forums around the nation’s capital and visiting the offices of every U.S. Senator and House member, the AOA advocates focused a national spotlight on optometry. The event was led by the AOA board of trustees, its president Mitchell T. Munson, OD, and president-elect David A. Cockrell, OD.

Top priorities about which attendees pressed lawmakers included: full and fair implementation and enforcement of the new Harkin Law that bans health plans, including Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) plans, from discriminating against ODs; safeguarding continued full-physician status for doctors of optometry in Medicare and ensuring full eligibility for new reform-based physician-level payment incentives; securing new Congressional co-sponsors to AOA-backed bills seeking fair treatment for ODs in Federal health programs (H.R. 855, H.R. 920/S. 1445).

The conference began with a special summit on the new pediatric essential health benefit launched earlier this year as a provision of the Affordable Care Act. ODs were joined for “Optometry's Healthy Vision: The First 100 Days of Essential Pediatric Eye Health Coverage” by members of Congress, officials from the U.S. Department of Education, children's health and education advocacy groups, and Jennifer Cross, MD, a leading pediatrician.

“Optometry's advocates are making a real difference in the lives of patients and for the future of their profession,” said Munson. “But there’s work ahead for the profession. Now that the pediatric essential benefit is law, optometry’s charge is to make comprehensive exams routine practice for all of America’s families. This special summit provided an opportune dialogue about the future of children’s vision.”

In addition, a briefing sponsored by the Diabetes Advocacy Alliance—composed of Novo Nordisk, the AOA, and other leading health groups—explored optometry's leadership on improving care for patients with diabetes, unveiling the AOA evidence-based guidelines for eyecare of patients with diabetes mellitus.